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Imagine taking a long, refreshing shower in the heat of summer. That’s the guilt-free promise of an outdoor shower, that not only adds value to your home, nearly doubling its sales price. It also allows you to repurpose unused space in your backyard and shower in nature.
If you’re ready to design an outdoor shower, here’s our complete guide to designing one, whether you prefer DIY-style or hiring a contractor.
Once you know what’s expected of you, these 40+ outdoor shower ideas will help you create a spa-worthy oasis.
Pick a design that is well-grounded, and works in harmony with your preferred outdoor location, then the beauty of your outdoor shower will follow suit.
1. The Minimalist Outdoor Shower
This understated outdoor shower design is the barest design yet a few touches can make it aesthetically pleasing, as well.
Such an outdoor shower typically has just control handles on the side of a wall (or as part of a freestanding design) with a showerhead projecting out over them and no enclosure separates the bathing area from the surroundings.
Minimalist showers are often located on a secluded back wall or section of a building, with no structural screening for privacy. Thus, the location is what lends privacy.
Since the design of the minimalist outdoor shower is wide open, bathers have a sense of being completely free in nature as they enjoy an unobstructed view of their surroundings.
Simple showers like these can also be situated in remote locations, with the plumbing and hardware mounted on a pedestal of wood, bamboo, concrete, or the like.
The permanent remote minimalist shower can be supplied from buried water lines or, in simpler situations, garden hoses can do the work. And in the winter, they can get drained and stored away.
Anyone can install an outdoor shower because of its simple design.
Therefore, most minimalist showers are more functional than aesthetic, allowing for quick rinsing off i.e. after gardening or swimming, but if you’d like to enhance their aesthetics, let the plumbing and fixtures shine.
A simple poolside shower, for example, will allow swimmers to rinse chlorine, bromine, and any other pool chemicals from their skin, as well as simply being a refreshing place to cool down in the sun.
Of all the permanently installed outdoor shower designs, the minimalist shower is by far the least complex and least expensive to build.
The basic components are:
- The plumbing (a piped source of water, one or two temperature-control handles,
- A showerhead, and
- A drainage system),
- A structure to support the plumbing, and
- A stable surface for bathers to stand on while showering.
2. A Free-standing Outdoor Shower
For this type of shower, the plumbing for a minimalist shower is easily installed on a freestanding pedestal, tree, large boulder, or quite literally anything that offers a firm enough foundation.
Good thing, there are many fine commercial pedestal products to choose from in a range of materials, including wood, chrome, and stainless steel.
3. An Attached Shower
An attached shower is sited on the wall of a building. In this design, the plumbing can be run through the interior of the structure, hiding it completely, or can be surface mounted, thus making use of the copper pipe decoratively.
NOTE: Since attached, the exterior area of a building that hosts a minimalist outdoor shower should also have some degree of moisture protection included in the design and construction.
This is because there will still be a considerable amount of water coming in contact with the exterior surface of the building, with the potential for moisture build-up and rot.
4. The Enclosed-Attached Shower
An enclosed-attached shower is a minimalist shower installed against the side of a building inside an enclosure.
The enclosure sets the stage for privacy, thus allowing you to locate this shower anywhere you desire — even next to the front door of the house!
This design style also opens up the options for including a dressing room and other ancillary spaces.
The enclosed-attached shower can be an aesthetic statement and stand out in contrast to the building it is adjacent to, or it can blend in seamlessly with its surroundings depending on the building materials you use.
Ceramic tiles create a waterproof surface for an outdoor shower.
FAQ 1: How Do I Protect My Wall Against Moisture Damage?
Regardless of the material you choose, there are some key construction details to bear in mind when building an attached or enclosed-attached shower, to prevent potential water-related problems.
First, you want to waterproof the wall of the house to which the shower will be attached.
House exteriors are normally built to shed water, but if an outdoor shower encloses a section of the wall, moisture can build up there over the years, and extra measures must be taken to keep the area from rotting.
If you are building a new home and have the luxury of incorporating the shower into your overall plan, then including all the necessary layers of structural waterproofing will be convenient.
But if the shower is an add-on to a preexisting building, other options for waterproofing exist.
Beneath their exterior siding (whether that is wooden shingles or clapboards, vinyl, or brick), most homes are wrapped in a vapor barrier that allows moisture inside the structure to work its way out but doesn’t allow exterior moisture to enter.
The barrier might be tar paper in older buildings or Tyvek paper in newer ones. The vapor barrier also helps keep drafts from penetrating the walls and roof.
Below this vapor barrier is an underlayment (typically some kind of plywood) that provides support for the finish siding on the exterior of the building.
If you can access this layer, install marine-grade or pressure-treated plywood as the underlayment where the shower will be sited, to ensure against water damage.
To protect your house from water damage, the wall where an outdoor shower will be installed should be built (or retrofitted) with a layer of marine-grade plywood under a vapor barrier before the siding is installed.
If you aren’t able to access the underlayment, you’ll have to rely on the house’s siding to prevent water from penetrating the exterior wall and causing rot.
If your shower is on the south side of the building, the issue of moisture retention may not pose a problem, as it will be exposed to a good deal of sunlight. Showers facing other directions, especially the north, may be more problematic.
One option to reduce the constant barrage of moisture is to construct a partition between the shower and the exterior wall, to shed the majority of the water. The partition could be made of the same material as the rest of the shower walls.
FAQ 2: How Do I Deal With Evacuating Graywater?
The other problem is keeping the wastewater from your shower away from the foundation of your house.
You’ll need to take steps to ensure that the floor is well-drained and that graywater is channeled away from the house.
Many outdoor showers have no drainage system to speak of and simply allow the graywater to fall to the earth and eventually seep in or trickle away.
For water drainage in attached and enclosed-attached showers, however, we recommend installing either a dry well or a shower pan that directs the graywater to your household wastewater system.
This way, the graywater will spend no time on the soil surface, where it can serve as a breeding ground for insects or cause rot at ground level.
See chapter 1 for more details.
FAQ 3: How Do I Ensure Privacy In My Shower?
Depending on the degree of privacy you want for your shower, keep in mind when designing your enclosed-attached shower.
This is especially because people in high storeys could potentially have a bird’s-eye view into a shower that is positioned against the side of your house.
So, either place the shower so that it’s not in the line of sight or install some kind of overhead arbor. This could even support some flowering vines that, in addition to providing privacy, would contribute to the ambiance of the shower.
As for privacy from other areas of the surrounding environment, check on the angles of view and sightlines from both the interior of the shower facing out and the exterior looking in.
Also, avoid siting the shower in areas of unobstructed view that may make modest bathers self-conscious.
5. The Semi-Detached Shower
The semi-detached outdoor shower is a self-contained shower room sited away from the main building but connected to it by a breezeway, trellis, fence, freestanding wall, or section of roof or deck.
Building your shower in this fashion will give it an element of spaciousness and independence of form from its surrounding architecture.
The shower stands on its own, offering you a unique vantage point from which to experience your surroundings, as well as a sense of going on an adventure.
The design of the semidetached shower bridges the attributes of the enclosed/attached and the fully detached showers.
It’s a compromise of moving the shower away from a structurally supportive wall, yet not entirely letting go into an independent location; it creates a human-scale space with a distinct personality.
It can also accentuate an aspect of the surrounding environment while blending in with the overall architectural design of your house and outbuildings.
However, the materials chosen for the shower don’t have to be the same as those used on the main building in order to achieve an architecturally harmonious design.
Structurally, the semi-detached shower is simply an enclosed shower set away from the main building.
The plumbing for this style of shower is similar to that of the enclosed-attached shower. Instead of connecting to the shower through an exterior wall of the main building, however, the hot and cold lines typically run from the house to the shower under the deck, through a low partition, or in an overhead structural canopy.
Drainage is handled in the same way as for the enclosed/attached shower. A dry well can be dug and filled with gravel to instantly disperse the graywater into the ground.
Alternatively, a shower pan can be installed beneath the shower floor to evacuate the water to the surrounding landscape or to the household septic line.
6. The Fully Detached Shower
This outdoor shower family exists away from any physical or aesthetic connection to surrounding structures, becoming something of a destination in the yard, the site of a daily showering pilgrimage.
It allows the bather privacy and seclusion and promotes a contemplative attitude toward life.
Depending on your intention, your shower can be virtually hidden with a natural screen of living camouflage, or it can make a strong aesthetic statement by drawing attention to its design.
By capitalizing on the element of seclusion, your fully detached outdoor shower can also provide you with an incredibly rare experience: the sensation of being in a foreign and exotic land, far from the day-to-day world you’re used to.
A meandering pathway can lead to your private sanctuary, set against a natural backdrop of your favorite plantings. This style of shower leaves the options wide open for exploring just how creative you can be.
Having stable, even footing while you navigate the route to an outdoor shower creates a seamless transition into your bathing environment. No one wants to find their way when wrapped in a towel, barefoot, and carrying an armful of toiletries.
Practically speaking, the plumbing elements of this shower have pipes running a greater distance.
NOTE: If your detached shower is more than 75 feet (23 m) from a preexisting hot water supply (such as that of your house), it’s wise to install an on-demand hot water heater near your shower.
You’ll need to build a small enclosure near the shower site to house the heater, and you’ll need to make accommodations for powering it.
If the heater is electric, you’ll need to run electricity out to the shower site but if it burns propane, you’ll need to run a propane line from your house or install a propane tank next to your shower.
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To get the water out to a remote detached shower, ¾-inch (19 mm) copper pipe is the rule. It should be buried at least 12 inches (31 cm) below grade in a bed of clean sand, with no rocks.
If you live in a region that freezes during the winter, the water supply lines will need to have an extension that is pitched to an access hole and terminates in a removable plug, so that you can drain the pipes before freezing temperatures set in.
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Fully detached outdoor showers usually drain into their own dry well. However, you may want to make the most of the resulting graywater from your shower by using it to irrigate surrounding landscape plants.
This can be accomplished very simply by installing a shower pan that directs water to nearby gardens.
Alternatively, you could create a shower floor of poured concrete that’s pitched slightly outward, so that the graywater can run off directly into the surrounding soil.
7. The Indoor-Outdoor Shower
Technically speaking, these are not true outdoor showers, in the sense of being sited outside the house.
Instead, these showers are to be found inside, usually attached to a master bedroom; if they’re near an outside wall, a door close at hand may offer bathers the ability to stroll outside after a relaxing shower.
Though not sited entirely outdoors, the indoor-outdoor shower contains certain qualities that set it apart from the standard indoor shower.
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Typically this type of shower is not contained in an enclosure, and if it is, the space allocated to showering is voluminous. Often the shower is part of an open bathroom floor plan that utilizes a central drain to evacuate the water.
Although not sited outdoors, the indoor-outdoor shower usually has some kind of easy access to the outside. It also offers the bather an opportunity to shower in an unenclosed interior environment — typically in a large, open space finished with materials that can be exposed to water.
Keeping the bathroom dry is not necessarily the focus in this type of situation. The floor and walls are often finished with tile, and the ceiling is finished with more tile or with marine-grade paint.
Because the environment is capable of withstanding a free flow of water, the bather is able to move around in this space without giving a thought to water damage issues. Indoor-outdoor showers offer many design options.
The bathing area can be at the same floor level as the rest of the room, with the floor of the entire room gently sloping down to a drain.
Alternatively, it could step down significantly into a short enclosure, sort of an open walk-in tub for showering, with its own drain.
Another option is to set the shower at floor level but enclose it with a slightly raised perimeter, perhaps a 6-inch (15 cm) wall, which contains most of the water on the floor immediately around the bather.
The shower is open and allows plenty of room for bathers to move around, yet it is set within clearly defined boundaries.
In cases where privacy is a consideration, a partition separating the shower from the rest of the bathroom may be necessary. Semitransparent materials like glass blocks are ideal in this scenario.
Outdoors or in, glass block is a fantastic material for creating walls, partitions, and enclosures.
Clear enough to allow light to pass through unimpeded, yet obscured enough to prevent anyone from seeing through them, glass blocks allow bathers to feel naturally illuminated while remaining in privacy.
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Ready to build an outdoor shower? Try any of these types of outdoor showers and build an oasis you can always look forward to using!